The best books to beautifully capture the reality of gay teens’ lives and loves

Michael Cart Author Of Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism
By Michael Cart

The Books I Picked & Why

Weetzie Bat

By Francesca Lia Block

Book cover of Weetzie Bat

Why this book?

I love Weetzie Bat for its generous-hearted treatment of love in all of its myriad aspects. Weetzie Bat, a high school senior, is one of the great characters in young adult literature. She lives in a magical Los Angeles, where she finds her true love in My Secret Agent Lover Man; and where her best friend Dirk, who is gay, finds his true love in a boy named Duck. The specter of AIDS threatens their relationship but in the end, to the reader’s delight, love conquers all. The book is brilliantly written in Block’s signature style, which has been influenced by Imagist poetry. The result is lyrical and enchanting in its near uniqueness. Weetzie Bat is in a class all by itself.

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Boy Meets Boy

By David Levithan

Book cover of Boy Meets Boy

Why this book?

This whimsical and wonderful book is a modern classic of gay literature, one of the first upbeat gay novels with a happy ending, no less. It imagines a delightful, offbeat world where two boys can walk down the street hand in hand and no one cares; where the homecoming queen is the cross-dressing captain of the football team; where – well, you get the picture. It’s an offbeat and, well, sanguine one. I love the innocence and generous-spirited nature of the book that sets it apart and delights readers while demonstrating that love is sometimes not smooth but always comes right in the end. Who could ask for anything better?   

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We Contain Multitudes

By Sarah Henstra

Book cover of We Contain Multitudes

Why this book?

Here’s another book that I love because it’s a story about love, the love of two boys who are unlikely companions: one is a former football player, taciturn and withdrawn; the other is openly gay, a short, slender, fine-boned boy who idolizes the poet Walt Whitman, whose words become a leitmotif of this remarkable novel. Told in the form of. letters that the two boys exchange, it follows their emerging friendship as it gradually turns into a love that’s as poetic as Whitman’s well-chosen words. The relationship of the boys – who are characters to die for – is riveting and their story, unforgettable. Another terrific addition to gay literature for teens.   

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The Dove in the Belly

By Jim Grimsley

Book cover of The Dove in the Belly

Why this book?

The story sounds simple: two college-age boys  Ben, a football player and brainy Ronny, his tutor – gradually fall in love even though their relationship is sometimes stormy, and readers may wonder anxiously if it will endure. But true love has a stubborn way of enduring and perhaps it will in this case, too. So, a simple story? No, for it’s as complex as the human heart. What also sets this one apart is its gorgeous writing, which is an undivided pleasure to read and which brings Ben and Ronny to vivid, fully realized life. Readers won’t forget them nor will they forget this haunting novel.  

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The Days of Bluegrass Love

By Edward van de Vendel

Book cover of The Days of Bluegrass Love

Why this book?

Weary of people asking him what his plans for the future are, eighteen-year-old Dutch teen Tycho decides to travel from his Holland home to America to work at a camp for international kids. Along the way, he meets Oliver, who’s from Norway, and is also going to work at the camp. The two quickly become fast friends and then something more. When their love relationship is discovered, they’re expelled from the camp, and the two fly back to Norway where Tycho will stay with Oliver while the boy’s mother is gone. No, there are no wild parties, just a lovely examination of an emerging relationship that is challenged by Oliver’s keeping a closely guarded secret. If this sounds dull, trust me, it isn’t! Find out why I’m so crazy about this book by reading it. Tell them Michael sent you...

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